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Probyn column: Crooked feed call has cost Scotland

Kenki Fukuoka

With the storm crashing in, you can understand the desperation of the three contenders in Pool A, the only pool that has gone down to the wire and with still a degree of uncertainty as to who will qualify from Scotland, Ireland, and Japan.

Much of the uncertainty has come from the extraordinary actions of South African referee Jaco Peyper in giving a crooked feed against Samoa at the scrum at the end of the game against Japan. This gave Japan a scrum of their own which led to a bonus point try with the game over once the ball went dead.

Peyper has given what will probably be the only crooked feed infringement during this World Cup, and has drawn some caustic comments from Scotland coach Gregor Townsend.

Townsend said he hadn’t seen a crooked feed call in a World Cup or Six Nations and it’s not something that’s been refereed. He said he thought there was an agreement giving more latitude for the scrum-half putting the ball into the scrum because you are the team who has won the scrum.

While it’s true there have been moves to allow scrum-halves to put the ball in closer to their own hooker, the laws still stipulates the ball must be put in straight.

If it was the case that World Rugby had secretly agreed to allow crooked feeds, they would have removed one of the main pillars of the game, which is all elements of the game are a competition and the scrum is fundamentally one of the main areas of competition that differentiates and defines Rugby Union as a unique sport.

Had Scotland not bombed so badly against Ireland in their opening game and Ireland not lost to Japan I doubt Townsend would have made those comments, as Scotland would not be in the desperate position they now find themselves.  

Much as it would be a bitter pill to swallow for the Scots to be sent home without the chance of saving their World Cup ambitions on the pitch, the outcome would be a milestone for the sport.

For World Rugby it would be a dream come true as host nation Japan would be the first Tier 2 nation to make the quarter-finals of a World Cup.

With all the other Pools more or less decided as expected, and World Rugby having already cancelled Italy’s match against the All Blacks, condemning the Italians to an early flight home, it makes it difficult for them to allow Scotland more time.

If Scotland miss out there is no doubt they will blame World Rugby who said they had contingency plans for the typhoon season – but never actually defined what those plans were.

The 0-0 draw and two points each could well be the contingency plan World Rugby had in mind, but whatever their plan, nothing could prepare for a category five typhoon.

What has to be remembered is these violent storms can change direction so any World Rugby contingency plan would involve moving the game more than a thousand miles to be on the safe side, which would make it impossible for fans to travel.

Gregor Townsend
Perplexed: Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend could not believe the irregularity of the crooked feed call given by referee Jaco Peyper. Getty Images

It is obvious Townsend has never experienced a storm of that magnitude otherwise his comments as to a better weather forecast for Sunday evening would never have been made.

One of my sons works in that area of insurance and is currently in the Bahamas following the category five hurricane that struck there on September 1. He has told us of the unbelievable level of devastation that has befallen many of those islands. We are now over a month after the event and there are still many people missing and services are yet to return to normal.

In Japan it is liable to take weeks before things return to normal in the areas where the typhoon strikes, and it is likely that games will have to be moved to the parts of Japan that were unaffected by Hagibis. For many of the fans who have travelled from Europe this will be their first encounter with a storm of this magnitude.

World Rugby and the Japanese authorities will have a logistical nightmare on their hands if games have to be moved to different stadiums which may have a smaller capacity, and fans will have to be relocated in the unaffected areas.

The thing that Scotland must understand is that they cannot be made a special case. If their game is rearranged so must all the others that are cancelled because of the storm.

Although it may not have resulted in too many other teams failing to qualify for the quarter-finals, it does impact on the finishing position of many teams who have qualified and who they play against.

France and England are a perfect example with France facing Wales and England facing Australia, whereas if France had beaten England on Saturday the reverse would be true.

At the moment the storm around the Scotland game looks to be spoiling the first ever Rugby World Cup in Asia but with the knockout stages soon about to begin, there’s still so much to look forward to.

JEFF PROBYN

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